tv Tavis Smiley WHUT July 5, 2011 8:30am-9:00am EDT
tavis: good evening from los angeles. up tonight on this fourth of july, a look at the most american of all businesses, the auto industry. bob lutz is a legendary figure. serving as vice chairman of general motors. his latest text is "car guys vs. bean counters". also, cedric the entertainer is here. he stars alonside tom hanks in "larry crowne". he launched a new show for nbc called "it's worth what?". coming up right now. \[please stand by/]
>> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help s.ja es y >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment, one conversation atim a t e. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: bob lutz has been a creative force in the auto industry. he is also a noted author whose books include the best-selling business book "the cuts".
his latest is "car guys vs. bean counters". he joins us from ann arbor, michigan. nice to have you on this program. >> for having me. tavis: let me start about your tax. -- your text. how would you define the soul of the american business? >> it should be about pleasing customers and doing superior products but i think for about the last 20 years, we have been obsessed with business school techniques, analysis, project of analysis, tons of numbers, attainment of short-term proper goals, and we have somehow i and many companies forgotten what we are in business for which is to provide a superior product or service which will permit us to compete globally which manifestly we have not been doing so well for the last 20 or 30 years. tavis: when did a superior product take the back seat to
pure profit? >> i think first, superior product is the one really safe way to get superior preferences as general motors is finding out. this started with the rise of prestige of the business schools and it was in the late 1960's and early '70s -- 1970's. a lot of american management became the very scientific. and started saying, the product or service, let's set that aside. that only has to be good enough to get by and we will substitute butter for margarine and put water in the soup and get it down to complain, we will add some back and it became the cost optimization exercise as opposed to customer satisfaction. i have an m.b.a. myself. i probably read hundreds of business school cases which is a
teaching tool of the business schools and they all revolve around reducing costs. they never talk about making the top line increase through doing a superior product. tavis: the auto industry has endured and you take on business schools of you haas you have do. you're not as tough on labor unions and there are folks who believe part of the reason the auto industry got into the massive debt was in part because of labor. your thoughts? >> of course. the unions are a fact of life. has unions, china is starting to have unions. the german car producers face the toughest and most expensive union in the world. i would save the unions are
popularly elected. they are elected by popular league boat. vote. and of course over the decades, the american automobile companies gave the unions with unwanted until it became an affordable. the contract that was done in the 1980's that gave them retiree health care with first dollar health care coverage, no generic drugs, all brand new, brand names, that wound up being a $7 billion annual check that gm had to write. that was one of the things that brought the industry to its knees. i do not blame the unions. i kind of blame the way management with the unions to a large extent. >> you blame management. tavis: as i suggested earlier. i'm ok with this. you come after the media pretty hard.
there is the role that the media played in the auto industry crisis. >> what i always say to media people is i love you individually, collectively i think you did the american automobile industry a great disservice because for the last 20 or 30 years, it became to, detroit to adjust th did bad stuff. one journalist said you were right. the mantra was detroit sucks because it just does. that was the attitude and the imports were being praised. being praised for being smarter and better. their executives were modest and they did not get as much paid. all this, especially the japanese. toyota was placed on the marble pedestal as the best, wisest,
most altruistic car company in the world. most of that was just in popular fiction. it is true that some of the magazine's told late frankly if we write something positive about an american car or we say in making this example, a camaro will outperform an equivalent porche, they would get hundreds of cancellation letters of people saying you have sold out to detroit and you are not telling it like it is. to a certain extent the media, there were planning to their audience. tavis: your point about management. what did they do wrong and where did they go wrong? why are the bean counters to blame? >> the bean counters do not just mean finance people. they are everybody in the company who eschews common sense and the logical thing and illing to approach
the product with passion. we're running a business. let's write down the three-year projection, what do what the share price to be? with the right down the rewards and the work backwards. only put as much into the product as they feel they can afford to reach that financial goal. guess what? it is a numerical exercise because three years later when the cars come out, they do not sell. it took them 30 years and by the way, all three companies, general motors was perhaps the biggest and in some cases the worst of this. it was 30 years of doing this and it did not work. and still they placed their faith in more and more analysis. guys like me who said, skip all those numbers. they make no sense. it is never going to come out that way. the only way that we can make a
decent profit around here i at -- and gain market share is by benchmarking the competition and doing better products and more beautiful products than the competition is doing. i was patted on the head and said, yes, that is all very well. that is not the way you run a large company. i say, look at steve jobs. that is the way you run a large company. tavis: you are an interesting guy for a lot of reasons but there are two examples. you do not believe in global warming and yet you are behind and support the electric car. you are an auto guy and yet you can empathize and see a rationale for a higher gas price. you are a walking contradiction sometimes, aren't you? >> the reason i do not believe in global warming is if you look at the predictions from 1996, the international panel on climate change to my new look at the prediction from 2001, not of
that has happened. i do very much believe that the country has to wean itself of a foreign oil. the reason i like and if i were emperor of the u.s. which is the only way you could get this done, i would ordain a 25 cent per gallon increase per year in the price of gasoline. in the u.s. at $3.50 a gallon, we are paying half per gallon with the rest of the world. with the federal emphasis on mandated fuel economy, they're talking about 56 miles per gallon by 2025. the only way you are going to get that is if you make people want more fuel-efficient automobiles. if you have the increasing price of gasoline, when people change cars, they will think about it and say, $3.75 of this year, i
had better buy something more fuel efficient with a smaller engine. you use the fuel price, a predictable slow rise in the fuel price. you use that as a market mechanism to get people to want to buy the smaller, more expensive, more fuel efficient vehicles because now, at $3.50 a gallon, they are buying full- will continued to do so. tavis: your sense of whether or not the industry as a whole is on the right track, moving in the right direction, yes or no? >> absolutely. i am super optimistic about the car industry. tavis: the new book by bob lutz, "car guys vs. bean counters". no one who knows the business better. thanks for your time. >> great to be here.
thanks for a much. tavis: next, cedric the entertainer. stay with us. always pleased to cedric the -- welcome cedric the entertainer. and you can catch him in the film "larry crowne". with tom hanks and julia roberts. >> got anything new? >> this is from the 1950's. >> he loves his job. they let him go. >> i am so sorry. >> get you some knowledge and you will be fireproof. >> that is right. you're never too old to learn.
>> i remember why. >> it is 50 cents for the vote. >> you could give this away for free. >> they do. i do not. tavis: if my grandmother -- my grandmother would say that is high cotton. you're hanging out with tom hanks and julia roberts. >> that is big time. they have an entourage. they are walking around with their cert. i have two image awards. mine are heavier. tavis: tell me about this character that you play in "larry crowne". neighbor.s larry's he is the big neighborhood because he w the ttery. sti.have a daily are
tavis: a daily yard sale? >> so i am having with ople and that is my thing. throughout the movie. i am trying to be people with the price. i do not care. you are trying to buy an old speed racer lunchbox, i am trying to get $100. tavis: did you ever do the yard sale thing? >> i would like to go buy them sometimes to see what people have but if never tried to sell my old stuff. i have a yard sale, here they come. get the good stuff out there. tavis: i was about to ask, if you had a yard sale, what do you have to put on display? >> it is always a little recycling, clothing and suits and the kind of thing. some golf and equipment. i have a lot of golf clubs i would give away. and you give away the kids'
stuff. they outgrow that. two days after christmas it is sitting in the corner. it is all the kind of stuff right there. my wife, she gives expensive stuff. tavis: you can i get rid of that. >> you cannot. i am pawning most of her stuff. how much these shoes cost? --is: hoda she'd take being how does she take being the brunt of her jokes? >> i still most of my stuff from lorna. she has an interesting sense of humor. i have gotten a lot of jokes from her. she will be like, don't.
tavis: lorna is writing for you. >> that is my secret. tavis: how are you choosing your roles? one things i love about the your friend is celebrating your success but watching good journey that you are on. i was teasing you heard earlier. how are you making decisions now about what to do tv wise. how are you factoring this? >> that is what happens. i have been blessed to have a long career. you have those times when you shoot up and gets hot and you have a lot of stuff going on. it becomes about looking for things that i feel i can progress my career in the right way. you get a call from tom hanks, he is directing a movie and he wrote the movie and he is a big time did. it is great to be part of that. i look for those kinds of things. i want to be more dramatic now days. i definitely want something big.
i look for things that can have people see me in a different light and let me mature as an entertainer and it actor and comedian. a little more maturity in the roles and looking for those things that give me that opportunity. tavis: haslinda as you are i have seen you for a long time. especially as i saw you do to to me". the movie was underrated. anybody who saw that and this was on cable, you could do drama. >> that was something when i see great comedians, robin williams or tom hanks, he did some comedy stuff starting early. tavis: "bosom buddies". >> that was tom hanks. but it is one of those things
where you look for that and my comedy, i did a lot of characters of the top. even eddie was me playing a character. there was a lot more comedy. i had fun doing those dramatic scenes. you decide to make the characters real. that is a great opportunity for me and i am trying to build on that and look for something that is more dynamic. one of my pet projects i would love to try to get this marcus garvey thing going. it is a story told in the days of seeing barack polarized these nations and having people follow him around the world. garvey did this in the 1920's without internet or twitter. that is interesting to see that film and that is something that is in my head i am trying to
develop. tavis: part of the weay the game works is you have to do they blockbuster stock. you have to do that to make the kind of money and connections, for the kind of freedom and the independence it takes. this will not be done by a major studio if it gets done. >> it is one of those things. you end it up looking at ma lcolm x, they only had a limited view of what this story could be. you do understand that. you do these bigger movies to profile yourself, to have the right connections with the studios, for distribution. we can market a certain way even if we do not get the movie. we can market you. those are the reasons why you do
bigger movies and movies with big stars in them. tavis: tell me about this game show. "it's worth what?" larryis a shre byed by spencer. a show about people's fascination about how much stuff cost. i would bet her purse cost this and hearings. we get on the show and basically i will pull out a brand-new m bugati. what is more expensive, this or feeding an elephant for year? we have ancient artifacts from the early 1500's b.c. it is $50 million worth of stuff on the show and people are competing to win $1 million to
see if they know what is more expensive and why it costs this much. >> i am impressed that a black man host a show where there is $50 million of stuff on the stage. >> i have people that can come and skipped this up. tavis: there is a rumor floating around. you can set me straight. i saw the cameo. betty white was just here. you have done some stuff and the word is that there is a spinoff starring you as a result of your veland". "hot in cleavelan >> we're definitely developing this idea. it is a fun space and that was a great experience. suzanne martin and i partnered
to do the idea. it is going pretty good. i cannot talk about the details. it will be a good time. tavis: i see you in the clergy caller, i start laughing. -- collar, i start laughing. that makes me laugh. >> i am trying to give her advice, and i got a shady background myself. i was not always a priest. there is all that al green. tavis: you got all kinds of hats and styles and you are cool in them all the time. does it feel weird for you, like that scene now when your acting and you do not have a hat? do you feel naked without a hat? >> as me, when i am playing a
character come i am cool. as may, when i do not have a hat on, -- it is me. so, i enjoy and my wife and i started developing this hat line. there is the driver style caps and a fedora. i brought you one. i do these special designer hatboxes. you have your initials on there and everything. it has the "t" on there. tavis: what is that, build it? -- velvet? one side. on sit it on my head.
i want to rock the right. put that down. >> let's check you out there. you look kind of smith. -- smooth. that is tavis smiley. we can work with you. tavis: i can work with this. >> people can check them out. tavis: that is cool. i like that. >> you got a strap so if you like to travel, you can take this over the top. tavis: that is cool. that is it. thank you. i am good now. the movie is called "larry crowne" starring cedric the entertainer and "it's worth what?" starts when? >> july 19.
i am a game show host now. wink martindale. tavis: and marcus garvey sometime in the future. >> i got into the directing game. that is coming out. tavis: and hats in between. you are working like a jamaican. >> you got to do it. tavis: that is our show for tonight. thanks for tuning in. thanks for watching and keep the faith. captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org tavis: join me next time for conversation with popular bay area radio talk-show host mich krass. that is next time. we will see you then. >> all i know is his name is
james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to eveone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment, one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. thank you. >> be more.